Pakistan’s Ambassador to Tajikistan: The time has come when we need to continue to support initiatives for the mutual benefit of our two brotherly countries and peoples.

November 30, 2015 12:00

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Pakistan Amb

Dushanbe, 30.11.2015. (NIAT “Khovar”). – An interview of the correspondent of NIAT “Khovar” with Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Tajikistan Mr. Tariq Iqbal Soomro, in connection with the results of President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon’s visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

NIAT “Khovar”: As we know, the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif met twice within a year at the highest level. Thirteen cooperation agreements were signed in the course of two visits. In total, the juridical base of bilateral cooperation between our countries is about 50 documents. Is it possible, in this context, to say that the relations between Tajikistan and Pakistan have reached a qualitatively new level?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: First of all, let me express my deep gratitude to your esteemed news agency for giving me an opportunity to speak about Pakistan-Tajikistan friendship (Dosti). Indeed, the highest-level exchange visits between our two countries in 2015, in addition to our Prime Minister’s visit to Dushanbe in June 2014, indicate the growing warmth and cooperation between our two brotherly countries.

The visionary leadership of both the countries realizes that there exists great potential on both sides which needs to be tapped for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples. Hence, both the countries are making joint efforts to identify the areas of cooperation in order to diversify and solidify our excellent, fraternal ties. You might be aware that 7 more MoUs/agreements were signed during the recent visit of HE President Emomali Rahmon to Pakistan in the areas as varied as Extradition, Energy, industry, diplomacy, etc. Today, we have a wide-ranging framework for cooperation available in the shape of these multiple agreements and MoUs that would further boost our bilateral cooperation and make it more broad-based in the days ahead.

NIAT “Khovar”: Given the importance of energy and security cooperation of our countries, how would you assess the prospects of relations between Tajikistan and Pakistan in these areas?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: As I earlier mentioned, there are still exists a lot of potential on both sides that needs to be tapped for the mutual benefit. In this regard, energy sector in my view is the most promising as Central Asia, including Tajikistan, is energy-rich while South Asia, including Pakistan is currently faced with shortage of energy due to ballooning population and growing industrial sector. Hence, increased cooperation between our two brotherly countries in the energy sector, through building of energy corridors as planned, will not only benefit our two countries but the whole region.

Similarly, given the present security challenges in the region and throughout the world, there is also need for joint efforts to improve the security situation around us. Leadership of both the brotherly countries is fully cognizant of these security challenges and is committed to play their due role in bringing about peace and prosperity to our two peoples and the region. Pakistan’s security apparatus and expertise is one of the best in the world. We are already providing a number of defence-related course/ trainings to Tajik security personnel each year. Since the cooperation in security dimension is the need of the hour, I am sure that we shall witness increased interaction in this important area between the two countries.

NIAT “Khovar”: In addition to the previous question, I would like to clarify whether the uneasy situation in Afghanistan hinder the implementation of CASA-1000 project in the near future?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: Both Tajikistan and Pakistan consider CASA-1000 project as a flagship project in their fraternal ties. As you are aware, CASA-1000 electricity transmission project is a landmark project among Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, whereby Pakistan would import 1000 MW surplus electricity in summer season from Tajikistan to meet its growing energy needs. Since it is a win-win project, all these four countries attach equal importance to the early completion of the Project. The Project has also support of the major donor countries and organizations such as World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, USAID, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

More importantly, its completion would be a significant step towards realization of the planned Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM), which would, in turn, boost inter-regional energy cooperation between Central Asia and South Asia. Due to the excellent cooperation among all the stakeholders, a lot of progress has already been made to complete the project by 2018. This all shows that all these four countries all fully committed to the timely completion of the project as it is equally beneficial for all of us.

NIAT “Khovar”: The presence of terrorist groups in the region is alarming for both Tajikistan and Pakistan. How effectively could our countries communicate in the fight against the elements of international terrorism in the region?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: You must be aware that Pakistan has been in the forefront of global fight against terrorism since the unfortunate events of 9/11. Since then, we as a nation have rendered unprecedented sacrifices in order to root out the evils of extremism and terrorisms from the country and the region. Over the last 14 years, we have lost tens of thousands of lives, including soldiers and innocent civilians in this war. The inhuman terrorists have not spared even our innocent kids in schools. Our economy has suffered damages worth US $ 107 billion. But, every coward attack byterrorists on innocent civilians in Pakistan has further strengthened our resilience and resolve to fight more resolutely against them.

We launched a comprehensive military operation named Zarb-i-Azb (Sharp Strike) against terrorists in June 2014 in North West Frontier Regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. The Operation has been a big success as it has helped eliminate 3000-4000 terrorists until now. As a result, terrorist attacks in Pakistan have become a rare occurrence. The whole international community has commended our sacrifices and successes in the ongoing war on terror. Operation Zar-i-Azb is now in final stages and the terrorists are on the run and trying to hide. But, we will hunt them down wherever they are to make Pakistan a terror-free country very soon, Insha Allah.

During the recent visit of Tajik President to Pakistan, both our Prime Minister and the Tajik President reaffirmed their shared resolve to multiply our bilateral cooperation at all levels to defeat and root out the evil of extremism and terrorism from our two countries and the region.

NIAT “Khovar”: How would you assess the prospects of opening the road and rail link between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan through Wakhan corridor?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: The leadership of both the countries is committed to explore every option to establish road and rail links between Pakistan and Tajikistan. In this regard, the road between the two countries through Wakhan territory in Afghanistan is also under consideration. I hope we would be able to establish road link through Wakhan, as it would not only benefit our two countries but Afghanistan as well.

NIAT “Khovar”: Unfortunately, the air service between the two countries is not implemented. According to some media, Tajikistan and Pakistan have reached an agreement on the opening of direct air services between the Republic of Tajikistan and some Pakistani cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad and Quetta. What are the chances for the implementation of these plans?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: I may add here that an Air Services Agreement was signed between the two countries in 2010 and the Tajik Air did start its flights on Dushanbe-Islamabad sector in June 2012. However, it discontinued its flight operations shortly afterwards due to commercial unviability. In line with recent directives of our two leaderships, the aviation authorities of both the countries are now once again working out the modalities for resuming the direct air links between the two countries at an early date. Now we have offered to Tajik Airlines multiple sectors to make it commercially viable. I am sure that we will see it happen very soon.

NIAT “Khovar”: Tell us please, which factors do not allow to sign trilateral agreement between Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan on transit trade?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: First Experts level meeting on Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement (TTTA) was held in Islamabad in January 2015, followed by second expert level meeting held in Dushanbe in April 2015, where it was agreed that Afghanistan will hold 3rd Expert level meeting in Kabul in May 2015. However, it has not been held so far and we are looking forward to its convening by our Afghan friends at an early date, so that the Agreement could be finalized and signed.

NIAT “Khovar”: And the last question. What could you say about the prospects of increasing the volume of trade turnover between our countries and on using of Pakistani seaports by Tajikistan?

Tariq Iqbal Soomro: You might be aware that our bilateral trade turnover per year has steadily picked up since last three years. For example, our bilateral trade volume was just US$ 15 million in 2011. And, the same increased to US $ 89 million in 2014. It’s a huge increase within just three years and it was only possible through joint efforts and increased interaction in trade area between the two sides. It however should not make us complacent as there is still great potential that needs to be explored. The leadership of the two countries has desired to increase the bilateral trade up to US $ 500 million within next three years.

It is with this view that Pakistan recently held a single country, “Made in Pakistan” Exhibition in Dushanbe in last October. An agreement on formation of Joint Business Council (JBC) was also signed during Tajik President’s recent visit to Pakistan. The JBC held its first meeting on the sidelines of the same visit. Recently Pakistan has acceded to TIR Convention, which would also help to increase bilateral trade between two countries. These initiatives, I am sure, will go a long way in building direct business linkages between the two countries, and thereby help multiply our bilateral trade volume in near future. It is time that we continued to maintain the momentum generated so far to the mutual benefit of our two brotherly countries and peoples.

NIAT “Khovar”: Thank you for the meaningful conversation.

November 30, 2015 12:00

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